Leaving Antigua, W. I.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Take a Winter Vacation for Free. Go to the Dentist.

We're starting to think about heading north for the winter.  How's that sound to you folks who don't live in the tropics?  Hurricane season is almost behind us.  If it will just stop raining long enough, we'll stock the larder, fill up with diesel, shake out the sails, and head north, up to where it's cooler, like St. Martin, maybe?  That's far enough.  We don't want to find cold weather.

Part of our pre-departure routine is a visit to the dentist, which we did yesterday, in the pouring rain.  We've found dental care to be a real bargain down here.  After trying it out in several places, we've found a lady we like, here in Grenada.  She studied in England, and her partner in the practice studied in the U. S.  They both grew up in Grenada, and when they finished school, they decided to come back and open a practice with all of the latest equipment.  They've been at it for a couple of years, now, and they're thriving.

Yesterday, we both had a check-up and cleaning, with x-rays.  Bud had a minor filling done, as well.  The total charge, for both of us combined?  About $90, U. S.  Who needs dental insurance?  Back when we had it, our share of the cost for similar services was more than that, and that was over 10 years ago.

We've had similar experiences with medical care.   Want a vacation in a tropical paradise this winter?  Come down for your dental work.  You'll save enough over what it costs in the States to pay for the trip.

Monday, October 17, 2011

iPhones, iPods, and Yacht Provisioning

Grocery shopping takes a lot more time in this cruising life than it did when we lived ashore.  When non-cruisers ask us what we do all day to stay busy, provisioning is high on the list, and only partly for the reasons mentioned in our last post.  It is harder for us to get to the grocery store than it was when we lived on dirt, but there are other differences.
Dungda de Islan', where we live, we usually have to visit several stores, and perhaps an open air market or two, to find what we need for the week (or month, depending on our plans.)  Store stocks aren't replenished as often, and what's available is largely dependent on what was on the last ship.  It's quite different from getting in the car, going to the nearest supermarket, and buying everything on your list.  Oh, sure, you might want to shop price, but that's an option, not a necessity.  Here, one grocery store may have cornered the market on peanut butter.  Invariably, a competitor has all of the jelly in town.  Or maybe this week, everybody has peanut butter, but all of the jelly went to the next island to the north.  We've developed a maxim that we call "the rule of the islands."  It's simple:  If you see it and you think you might want it, buy it, right now.  If you go back later, it will be "finished," as they say down here, or sold out as we used to say.  And there may well never be a next shipment.
Besides availability, there's the problem of where to put everything when we get home to the boat. We have a lot of storage space, but it's spread over the entire vessel; a little locker here, space under the floorboards there, the cabinet concealed behind the settee cushions. You get the idea. When we were cruising out of the way places, we stored several months worth of food aboard. The last time we did that was several years ago, and we still find some of that stuff, every so often, in a forgotten corner. To avoid turning our provisions into science experiments, we've tried using lists, card files, spread sheets, you name it. We couldn't find a workable solution until recently.

We're now using a database management app on our iPod Touches.It’s called HanDBase, and it costs just a few dollars.It runs on all the magic iOS devices.It's straight forward to use, and we've developed databases for groceries, other consumables, and spare parts, all of which present the same acquisition and storage problems.
The screen shots are mostly self explanatory. The first one is the "default view," which is just a list of the items in our grocery database, with quantities on hand, quantity in each of several storage locations, target stock level, and a "Buy" quantity. The next screen is the "Need to Buy" view, which lists the only the items with a buy quantity of 1 or greater. That is the essence of our shopping list. We have 279 items in our grocery database, and 111 discrete storage locations; hence the need for an organized approach.

The last two shots show the details for an item record. This one happens to be coffee.

Because our iPod Touches go everywhere with us, the database is easily kept up to date. In fact, we keep recipes in another app called GoodReader, so when we're cooking, it's a matter of seconds to update the database as we use things. We always have the database available when we are shopping, so we know exactly what we need. There's space in each record for notes and favored brands, as well as typical prices, so if we find something that we aren't expecting, we can make an on the spot decision to buy or wait, knowing whether it would likely be cheaper in a different country. And, now that we've looked in all of those 111 storage locations, we aren't finding moldy surprises.

Just one more thing that we didn't think about when we were dirt dwellers

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grocery Shopping in Paradise

We've been trapped on our boat in a secluded anchorage for the last couple of weeks.  We've had tropical downpours virtually everyday, so going to town for groceries wasn't appealing.  We like the anchorage, because most of the time, there aren't any other boats around -- a rare thing in Grenada during hurricane season.  The downside is that shore access is limited.  There are a few private docks, but we think that being a good neighbor to the land-based folks means not intruding on their privacy, so we don't ask to use their docks.  We use our rowing dinghy to go ashore, instead of our rigid inflatable, because the rowing dinghy is more rugged, and we tie it off to the mangroves on a bit of bridge right of way.  Then we take off our shoes and wade ashore through the swamp, climbing up the bridge abutment to the road.  Once there, we have a short hike to a bus stop, where we can catch a bus into St. Georges, the capital city of Grenada.

The buses are actually small passenger vans, not as big as the SUV's that people in the States drive solo, and they are configured to seat 12 to 15 people.  When the bus stops, the conductor (Yes, there's a conductor on the bus!) slides the side door open and hops out to help you clamber aboard and find a seat.  Everyone scrunches up to make room, after exchanging polite, "Good mornings," or "Good afternoons," and you wedge yourself into any available space.  It's a chance to make personal contact, literally, with local inhabitants.  Personal space is an unknown concept -- everybody shares happily.  It's actually a pleasant experience that will restore your faith in your fellow man.  Once everybody is greeted and seated, the conductor climbs back aboard and the bus departs for the next stop -- often a few hundred yards away.  When the bus approaches your stop, you either call out, "Next stop, please," or, if the din of the radio is too loud, you rap on the ceiling.  The bus stops, the conductor hops out, and everybody willingly makes whatever accommodation in required to allow egress for the departing passengers.  When you get off, you pay the conductor, typically about the equivalent of a dollar.  It may not sound like it, but it's a surprisingly efficient way to get around.

Once we find what we need in the way of groceries at the various local markets in town, we head for the main bus terminal where we repeat the process.  Once back aboard Play Actor, we strip the packaging -- who wants to store all that cardboard -- and Leslie puts things away while I update our grocery database.  The database is important, given how involved shopping can be.  We have a lot of storage space aboard, but not all of it is readily visible, so it's important to know where the extra peanut butter was stashed.  It's equally important to know what we have and what we need, every time we go shopping.  More on the database next time…